• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • 2002 Salt Lake Saga

      Feb 9 Salt Lake Saga Part 1

      • A good start for the Canadian women. Amanda 35th, Jaime 38th. Percentage wise similar to Lahti in 2001 where Milaine and Beckie were 25th and 26th. For Jaime, a good improvement over her 50th place finish in Lahti 2001 and considering her summer training has been significantly limited by a back injury from a spring car accident a very good recovery.   For the top 2 this was percentage wise the best race sinceLahti in 2001 and Lahti 1989. It bodes well for the rest of the Games as the Canadian team seems fit and peaking on track.
      • Kudos to CBC for showing the race live and waiting for the field to finish, with as good as possible coverage of the Canadians during the race.  Some neat camera shots showing the speed of the racers, certainly a good promo for the sport with some good commentary and a great sprint to the finish by Belmondo and Lazutina.
      • Some weaker results from Scandinavia, Norway, 15,29,51 and DNF, Sweden 31 (just behind Nina Kemppel's top N Am Placing of 30) 37,39 and 40. 2nd best US skier, behind the Fortier's, Barb Jones in 44th.
      • Canada's best ever Olympic placing, 29th from Angela Schmidt-Foster in 1992.
      • The Canadian Support Team member who has raced in Summer and Winter Olympics: Alain Masson, 1984 Olympic Road Cycling Race (along with Pierre Harvey where Canada's Steve Bauer won silver) and the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics.

      Feb 9 Salt Lake Saga Part 2

      • Donald's result in the Mens 30k was a medium performance 10 places back and 2 percent behind where he was last year at Lahti in the 30k. Nonetheless it was a skating race and Doanld has been much stronger in classic this year. Despite not having the greatest race, Donald was second North American, after Andrew Johnson of the US who finished a very good 22nd.
      • Canada's best 30k result at the Olympics, 14th by Pierre Harvey in 1988.
      • Head Coach Dave Wood called today's races a medium day for Canada. It was a good opportunity to get some of the nervous energy out of their system. For Amanda and Jaime it was a good start, perhaps a bit too conservative in the first lap, but that ensured they could pick up some positions in lap number 2. For Donald who has struggled a bit in skating this year, it was an okay race with better things to look forward to in the classic races ahead.
      • Milaine Theriault didn't race today, partly due to a bit of a cold that has left her a bit fatigued. Sara Renner and Beckie Scott are in top shape and raring to go.
      • In 6 hours of television watching the saga crew have seen 3 athlete commercials. One featuring Sara (and her mother Barb) in a great Petro Canada spot, and Milaine Theriault in another neat commercial for Dairy Products. More exposure than the ski races usually get at the Olympics. The sport is making progress on the visibility side, with Brian Williams and other commentators mentioning how things are moving forward in Cross Country skiing. The Ottawa Citizen had another large photo, of Sara today, and an article about the ski team.  Can you guess who is decribed as the leader when it comes to goofinness?

      Feb 10 Salt Lake Saga

      • A short Update today
      • From www.xcskiworld.com  who are bringing in excellent coverages of the events an interesting comment on the Euros that didn't bother coming to Salt Lake last year

        "Notably, Elofsson also said he regretted not coming to the pre-Olympic World Cups in January 2001. Elofsson believed the lack of experience on the tough-on-tough Soldier Hollow trails played a big role in his early exit from today's race. That may have been a huge, huge mistake since the top 3 men and 3 of the top 4 women...including both race winners today...ALL skied the January 2001 events which had so many prominent no-shows. It remains to be seen whether or not that mistake turns out to haunt Elofsson and the other no-shows throughout the Olympics.

        Not shy about jumping on the subject of supporting racing around the globe, Muehlegg added his voice to the subject after Saturday's races: "I think it was very important to come last year for me and I think Mikhail and Christian would agree. Plus, we are professionals, we have to compete wherever there are races. People last year said I would have problems racing here and getting ready for the Lahti World Championships. Yes, I struggled with jet lag and I caught a cold...but it didn't end my season (Muehlegg won the 50km World event). And I had more experience for this year which was the most important thing. The Scandinavian men didn't come here last year and perhaps they paid a price. We all came here in the summer to train and look around, but it isn't the same. The hills here, they look more flat in the summer, in the winter when you are skiing they are more hilly."

        Memo to Europe  It is called the World Cup, welcome to jet lag and recovery and travel.
      • Stefania Belmondo won the 1989 World Junior 15k race, silever medallist in that event was Canada's Marie-Josee Pepin, from La Tuque Quebec. Belmondo won the 5k as well and MJ was 10th. Canadain team coach at that event was Jack Sasseville, the CBC colour commentator.

        Feb 11 Salt Lake Saga

        • Expected starters for tomorrows 10k classic: Beckie Scott, Sara Renner, Jaime Fortier and Milaine Theriault if she has recovered sufficiently from a bit of a cold. Donald will represent Canada in the Mens 15k cl. For the 4, other than Jaime, it is their preferred technique, so look for some moves up the ranking list from Saturday's event. Beckie and Sara missed Saturdays opening event for tactical reasons, saving a bit of energy to focus on their expected strongest events, the 10k classic, sprint, pursuit and relay. Few of the top skiers will take in all of the events, as it is a tough schedule, especially at altitude.
        • Note in the Pre Olympic warmup race in Sun Valley Beckie Scott finished, second to...... Saturday's gold medal winner Stefania Belmondo.
        • From The Toronto Star's Waymoresports. Chris Zelkovich writes a column on the media reporting of the Games.  In his column he includes a daily: the good; the bad; the ugly.

          OLYMPIC SURFING, THE GOOD: A telegenic start, a thrilling finish, breath-taking scenery and some superb camera work made the women's 15K cross-country ski race a perfect way to start the Games. ... Most descriptive analysis came from CBC's Jack Sasseville. "When you blow up at altitude, it's a horrible death," he noted during the men's 30-kilometre cross-country event. ...

          Best comments on the sport I have heard since the couch potato used car salesman told me how exciting that race was in Nagano where: "that Bjorn Dahlie fellow and the other Norwegian raced to the finish line for a medal".

          Note the above story submitted by one of our freelance correspondents. We pay for stories, a Thank you!
        • The team is staying out of the Athletes' village at the Homestead Resort. http://www.homesteadresort.com/ in Midway, 10 minutes from Soldier Hollow. Many of the other team's are staying there or in the vicinity, in order to avoid the long trip up from Salt Lake City.  Meals are buffet style and the lodgings get good reviews.
        • The report from the Wax team is: "So far so good".  Conditions are stable (not a typical Soldier Hollow experience) and the ski prep has been going well.  A far cry from the waxing and snow condition nightmare of Nagano, where due to the influences of the Pacific ocean and the southern latitude, the temperature would rise several degrees in a few minutes. Bring on '94 like conditions, where at Lillehammar the wax and snow conditions barely changed during the whole 2 weeks, remaining cold and clear (relatively inexpensive also).  Difficult waxing conditions are the possible Achilles heel for the Canadian team as unlike the other top nations, Canada was given only 6 support staff by the Canadian Olympic Association, with only 3 paid for by the COA. More on that story later.  The staff that are there are excellent, but you can only be so many places at once, and do so many things at one time when conditions get wild.   Fortunately the support team have worked together many times and have had significant experience at the Olympic venue, so with a bit of luck things will be fine.

      Feb 12 Salt Lake Saga

      • Not a lot to say. A historic day for Canada and also our neighbours to the south! Awesome job, by athletes, and support crew!  It was a day that wasn't a major focus of the program with the best chances are felt to be  in the Womens, pursuit, relay and sprints! Should be interesting to see the other events. Looks like the Canadian preparation program is dead on, congrats coach Wood. It's nice to not have to deal with Jet Lag and travel for a change.
      • Beckie started a bit conservatively and picked it up from there. Sara skied consistently throughout. Milaine is coming back from her sickness just at the right time. Donald was still feeling the effects of the 30k.
      • Of note Marty Hall and John Caldwell were the first to send congrats to CCC. Both gentleman among others were instrumental in the development of the sport in the last 30 or more years and, among others deserve some of the credit for moving Team N America to where it finished today.
      • Note: some of the great results came from skiers that only raced on the N American Continental Cup this season.. European experience is of course still very important, but it shows that there is now a strong N American circuit that can prepare athletes for top level international racing.
      • Todays results from Canadian skiing. CBC, which events will you follow next time?
        Cross Country
        • 6th
        • 15th
        • 25th
        • 46th
        • 47th
        • 6th
        • 7th
        • 15th
        • DNF
        • 8th
        • DNF
        • DNF
      • Heard on NBC. Some comparisons were made between the Estonians, who had 2 medals in the Mens race, and the peaking practices of some of their Baltic neighbours, that were DSQ'd in Lahti.  By the way where did Kristina Smigun finish today?
      • So what do these results mean???
        #1) That Canadians can compete well internationally, dope free and especially if there are good antidoping measures in place.

        #2) That the Canadian program can put things in place so that athletes with the desire and talent can be successful.

        #3) That with a Top 8 and a Top 16 result X-C Skiing should earn  some much needed respect from the COA and their team selection committee, and the National Sport Centres and a few other important agencies.

        #4) That Sport Canada may open the purse strings a little more as they were going to evaluate results at Salt Lake before making any final funding decisions for next year.

        #5) When CCC goes knocking on sponsors doors, we might even get inside to talk.

        All good signs for a cash starved sport

        What is the Alpine Team's Budget?

      Feb 17 Salt Lake Saga

      A medal for Canada in x-c! For once it wasn't really necessary to provide results coverage, it was readily available at many other sources. Besides the medal was worth celebrating!

      A tactically smart race for Beckie. Some excellent uphill attacks, an "oh no" moment when the drafting skier started to go around her on the last downhill. Her excellent skis and finishing speed didn't fail her as she prevailed in the final sprint and photo finish. Also some excellent work in skating by Sara to move up in the field in the second race and a solid performance from Milaine.

      Going in most would think the sprint would be the best chance, now some think there may be more medal possibilities: in the sprint as expected; and now also in the relay.

      Soldier Hollow is an excellent venue for spectating. From the bleachers you can see most of the course and with the Jumbotron can easily keep up on the action. The announcing is great with Peter Graves ensuring N.America gets at least it's fair share of attention. The nice weather helps makes it an awesome venue. Lots of great support and recognition for the team from our neighbours to the south.

      It was a wierd feeling walking by a large group of disconsolate Norwegian supporters with Norwegian flags face paint and Viking hats that had come to watch Bente Skari win gold!

      Does anyone know where dope scandal tainted Kristina Smigun finished or care?

      It's okay if Canada were routed by 5weden in hockey; we trounced them in skiing! Best Canadian performance in skating that day; not super Mario but Super Beckie. Enoughto make some diehard hockey nuts, turn into ski fans.

      Neat to see the Canadian flag raised at a Nordic medal ceremony. How many medals do the other Canadian ski teams have?

      Security. It is there but generaly discrete. Except when the 2 guys with camoflage suits and submachine guns greet you as you venture in to the driveway of Homestead resort. The "unofficial sub - village of Nordic teams" . To get into any venue requires what used to be typical airport security, bags checked, electronic devices turned on and the magic wand passed over your body by soldiers. Important- spectating tip sheet the speed, not the length of the line when choosing your security entrance. Airport security into Salt Lake and Washington area includes taking off your shoes for inspection and the wand passed over your feet!

      Neat things: the volunteers with jobs with limited appeal, taking pride in their contribution: the shutIe bus driver who tells you interesting things about Salt lake and the Olympics during his IO minute drive; the traffic director guy who made a simple your cars go there signal; a combo of some modern performance dance number and a traffic cop attacked by a swarm of bees; the guy directing people into the Light rail train lineups who made you laugh by saying it was just like Disneyland except it was free;the lineups were shorter; and the ride lasted longer.

      Real negatives: the Mcdonalds in Lehi; venue transpo planning to date. Signs to tell you where to go are scarce. The parking lot exits at Soldier Hollow take a minimum of 24 hours to get out of, and several horn honking fights between irate commuters have been witnessed. Perhaps they didn't anticipate spectators.

      A young entrepeneur could make a fortune at the massive Park and Ride lots. Thousands of cars are parked in these large empty fields where there are few signs or landmarks. By driving people around to look for their cars or organising a map someone could make a fortune. It's especially tough when you have a rental car that is relativly non descript.

      Gossip: You are not allowed to wax test using timing equipment on the course. The Czech's had theirs siezed by a Jury member and are rumoured to have had to pay a fine of 450 swiss f rancs (similar to Cdn $) to get it back. There are rumours another high profile team has ignored two warnings and may not get bibs at the next race unless the fine is paid.

      Thats it for 2day. Plans are for daily coverage until Thursday and for Thurs and Friday to be unpredictable. Cheek www.skifaster.net and www.xiskiworld.com for up to date detailed coverage and of course the major media sites.

      Heres to more medals! lets go Canada!

      Feb 19 Salt Lake Saga

      Another Superlative day. Beckie 5th, Sara 9th, Jaime 30th (W Cup Pts), Milaine 31. It wasn't more than a week a go when, 30th & 31 st would have been considered quite decent results, results by themselves.
      Now there was even a bit of disappointment because if Beckie hadn't have been boxed in near the semi finish, another medal would have been a good bet. Beckie dominated the B final. In addition a top 8 for Sara was real close, and if Sorkmo (a Norwegian racer) hadn't surprisingly been added to the B final Sara would have been at least 8th.
      It was good for Sorkmo, who got tangled up with Sara and fell in the semis, when doing quite well, but it was kind of an unprcedented decision for the late stages of the race.
      It is particularly unfortunate as the main funding agencies put more value on a top 8 than a top 16. But what the heck, it was still awesome.
      Top 9, the usual faces: 2 Russians; 2 Norwegians; 2 Germans; an Italian; 2 Canadians;..........hey what did you say 2 Cdns in top 9 at Olympic XC!!!!!!!

      • Milaine and Jaime's results bode well for the relay. A medal possibility again.

      Some other interesting decisons, and non decisions, an apparent but not called false start in one of the men's heats, and some apparent obstruction in the finish of the womens final which a German Moened about. No dsq for the Norwegian bronze medallist.

      Misc: A surprisingly strong finish from a Polish skier, who ironically broke a pole, when obstructed in the semis, by dsq'd Swede.
      Not so strong finishes but good efforts from the "exotic skiers": Cameroon; Costa Rica, Kenya, Ireland, and a new addition, Nepal. Hope they finish the 50k in the daylight. But thats what the Games shold be about, participation to the best of your ability, or so says the COA's Olympic Principles. Maybe some one on their selection committee should re-read them. The Nepalese skier is great at hill intervals but lacks pure speed!

      Looks like Freestyle have dethroned us as the most succesful ski team to date, with their 2 aerials medals. Oh well we will be back on Thursday to tie it up. Or do you count all 4 skier's medals if we make the podium?
      Alpine have fired their Mens team's coaches and will sit out the rest of the W Cup. Hopefully that isn't just because XC is out performing them.

      The waxers all sport fancy new blond hair!

      Memo t Canadian Skaters (short/long track/figure)
      From XC Ski Skaters
      Stay on your feet, you will do better.

      Canadian Media Incompetance Award of the day. (The Time Award) goes to Slam Sports. 3 articles from Associated press, no mention of the Canadian results, but they noted, US skiers failed to qualify. How do you spell inkompetance?

      Neat things: the volunteers with jobs with limited appeal, taking pride in their contribution: CONTINUED
      Pedestrian organizer to the busses, guy at The Peaks. A real jokester.
      "To enhance your Olympic waiting experience, use the longer security lines to the left." "To the predominantly Canadian hockey crowd he asked: " How y'all doing, EH!"; He led us through a song, a round of Oh Canada, and organized the waiting bus passengers in a massive "wave". He also liked to join us and moo like a cow as we all trudged to the bus stop.
      Utah Olympic Park has an optional 1.1 mile walk from car to venue, if you don't want the shuttle. They have speakers every 100ft (imperial units) and their own radio station. At each set of speakers, they have their request line #. As the 16000 Bobsled fans were leaving, they were playing the cattle herding song: Rollin';Rollin';Rollin', Keep those doggies Rollin', and the country classic: "These Boots were made for Walking"

      Thats it for 2day. Plans are for coverage Wednesday withThurs and Friday unpredictable. Check www.skifaster.net and www.xcskiworld.com for up to date detailed coverage and of course the major media sites.(maybe steer clear of Slam Sports!

      Heres to another medal! lets go Canada!

      Feb 21 Salt Lake Saga

      • An ok result for Canada in the womens relay. Tired legs lacked the necessary snap to compete on all for laps with Canada finishing 8th, 1 position off the Best Ever 1976 result.
        Nonetheless an exciting day of racing that found us in 5th for some of the race, and it was godd enog to make the Olympic Assoc.'s top 8 std.
      • The biggest news: The Russians (who had a skier sent home earlier for blood doping) and the Ukraine, did't pass the pre race blood test and couldn't race. Rumour has it that double silver medallist Lazutina was the guilty one. Marty Hall said in 88 that blood doping could be the reason for the Russians good results, looks like FIS have finally decided to do something about it!!
      • 2 races to go. Beckie may skip the 30 to rest some tired legs and prepare for the W Cup, Donald will race the 50, and the 30k starters are TBA depending on recovery.

      Feb 20 Salt Lake Saga

      The second best Olympic relay results ever, after the 7th place result in 76. More results analysis early next week. Nonetheless a bit of a disappointment considering the expectations going in, and that 2 of the doper teams were kicked out. Some tired muscles  failed to provide the snap that was needed on all 4 legs to be in medal contention, but still in what was won of the most competitive races ever (and leveler playing fields), medals weren't far from our grasp. Rumour has it that Beckie had the second fastest time on the day.

      One of the biggest victories for Nordic skiing was the expulsion of the Russians and Ukrainians. It shows that FIS has decided to get more serious about cleaning up the sport, despite the fact that it is rumoured that Lazutina was given several retests of her blood, instead of the 1 retest she should have been allowed!!!  The fact that the IOC backed the Russian's expulsion, in the wake of their threatened boycott, also shows, that the "Powers that Be" are perhaps grudgingly deciding to get things clean.  The findings here make a mockery of WADA chief Dick Pounds suggestion that 99% of the athletes are dope free. The results of the non traditional winners show that progress in anti doping is being made.

      Beckie and Sara will probably skip the 30k in order to recover and recharge their batteries, and head to the Scandinavian portion of the World Cup.

      • Lets go Donald in the 50k. Go Canada!